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Marriage settlements by Rachel Wilson

Marriage settlements were legal documents typically drawn up shortly before a marriage and detailing the financial arrangements that the two families were making for the intended couple and for future generations.They were normally only used by the wealthier families and in some ways can be seen as the forerunner to modern day pre-nuptial agreements. The major difference is that they described how money, land and possessions would be allocated to the husband and wife during a marriage and in the (inevitable) event of the death of one of the spouses, rather than explaining how any goods would be divided up as part of a divorce, which was an extremely rare occurrence in this period.[1]

[1]Sybil Wolfram, 'Divorce in England, 1700-1858' in Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, v, no. 2 (1985), p. 157.

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This entry was written by Rachel Wilson. Rachel Wilson is currently a third-year Ph.D. student in the School of History and Anthropology, Queen's University Belfast. Her research focuses on the women of Irish aristocratic families c. 1697 - 1737 and she is supervised by Professor David Hayton and Dr Marie Coleman. Last year, she taught on the undergraduate module History and Historians: Contested Pasts and co-organised the international conference entitled '"The Ideal Woman": Interrogating Femininity across Disciplines and Time',which took place at QUB on the 11th and 12th March 2011. Further details about the conference can be found here.

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